Ephesus, A Careless Church Revelation 2a
Stephen Caswell © 2004
How To Hug
There is a story about a man who was walking down the street. He passed a used-book store, and in the window he saw a book with the title How to Hug. He was taken by the title and, being of a somewhat romantic nature, went in to buy the book. To his disappointment, he discovered that it was the seventh volume of an encyclopedia and covered the subjects How to Hug.
Everyone knows that the church is a place where love ought to be manifested, and many people have come to church hoping to find a demonstration of love — only to discover an encyclopedia on theology.
2 weeks ago we looked at the Church at Philadelphia. We saw Philadelphia means brotherly love. Today we will see Ephesus; a Church that forgot the importance of love. The Church of Ephesus describes the Church Age from Pentecost to about 100ad. This Church was very evangelistic and therefore it grew quickly. Ephesus was the largest of the seven churches in Asia. We will see 4 things: The Correspondent, (the writer and the readers), The Commendation, The Condemnation, The Counsel.
1. The Correspondent
Rev 2:1: To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
a. The City
Ephesus was probably the most important city in Asia with a population of around 225,000 people. It was famous for trade and was at the hub of 4 major roads. The city had an excellent harbor and a lot of merchandise passed through it. The city was also known as the religious centre for the worship of the goddess Diana. A huge temple to Diana was located in Ephesus. People came from all over Asia to take part in the immoral worship of Diana. All of these things made Ephesus an important city in its day.
b. The Church
Paul passed through Ephesus at the end of his second missionary journey. On his 3rd missionary journey Paul spent 3 years at Ephesus. All of Asia heard the Word of God. He exercised a powerful ministry there and performed many miracles. He healed the sick and cast out evil spirits from those so oppressed. God’s Word was the key to Paul’s ministry. Acts 19:19-20: Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. This upset the local silversmiths who thought their livelihood was in jeopardy.
Christ describes Himself as the One Who holds the 7 stars in His right hand. This describes how Christ holds the pastors in His hand. He guides them and places them where He wants them to be. The Apostle Paul planted the Ephesian Church. Apollos also ministered at Ephesus with Aquilla and Priscilla. Later Paul sent Timothy to shepherd the flock there. After these men died for Christ the Apostle John pastored the Church. Christ also says that He walks in the midst of the 7 Churches. He serves the Churches as Our Great High Priest. He strengthens the 7 Churches and guides them. He intercedes for us at God’s throne. Jesus Christ also instructs them concerning their service for Him.
2. The Commendation
Revelation 2:2-3: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
Jesus Christ knows the works of all His Churches. Firstly, He commends them for their labor in verses 2 and 3. The word labor, κόπος, means toil, hard work, weariness, to engage in activity that is burdensome. Christ commended the Ephesian Church for their commitment to His service. They gave it their very best. No doubt their weekly schedule was filled with activities. It was also a sacrificing church, for the word labor means toil to the point of exhaustion. The Ephesian Christians paid a price to serve the Lord. They counted the cost of discipleship. To reach the lost requires sacrifice and hard work.
We wouldn’t be here today without the sacrifice of our forefathers. We can’t win a crown without carrying our cross for Christ. Jesus often spoke of the cost of discipleship. The Chinese Church is a living testimony to the sacrifice and service of committed people. Paul labored for 3 years at Ephesus. He overcame much opposition and persecution. Are we working for the kingdom of God? Do you count the cost each day for Christ’s sake?
Secondly, the Ephesian Church was patient. It says this twice. The word patient, ὑπομονή, means endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance. The word means to abide under pressure. They were a steadfast assembly, for the word patience carries the meaning of endurance under trial. They kept on going when the going was tough. The word persevere, βαστάζω, means to sustain a burden. They didn’t grow tired and quit. Christ praised them that they did not become weary but persevered in labor for His name. This letter was written to Ephesus about 40 years after Paul planted the Church there. That’s some testimony. Are you patiently serving the Lord? If Christ comes back today will He find you persevering in service or resting on the sideline?
c. Suppress Evil
Thirdly, they didn’t tolerate evil people. Although Christians are called to witness to the lost we must not behave like them. Psalm 97:10a: You who love the Lord, hate evil! The Church must maintain a separated lifestyle. Job was commended as an upright man that hated evil. We are commanded to live holy lives because God is holy. We are in the world but not of the world. Tragically, compromise is the word for today. The Ephesian Church was careful in this regard. They didn’t play around with sin of any kind. Are we taking sin seriously? Or are we tolerant of sin in our lives and in the Church?
d. Spiritual Discernment
Fourthly, they examined visiting ministers to see if they were genuine. The Church was commended for spiritual discernment. Jesus told the disciples to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Paul warned them about false teachers and they found them out when they came. Acts 20:29-30: For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
The Apostle John also warned the Ephesian Church to test the spirits lest they be deceived by false prophets. 1 John 4:1-5 The Ephesians tested the False apostles and found them out. The Corinthian Church failed in this very area. They also rejected the teaching of a heretical group called the Nicolaitans. Are we discerning Christians? Are we checking out the preacher with God’s Word like the noble Berean’s did?
3. The Condemnation
Revelation 2:4: Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Left Their First Love
The Ephesian Church was doing so many things right. No matter how you examine this congregation, you conclude that it is just about perfect. However, the One among the lampstands saw into their hearts, and He had a different diagnosis from ours; they had lost their first love. What we do for the Lord is important, but so is why we do it! What is first love? It is the devotion to Christ that so often characterizes the new believer: fervent, personal, uninhibited, excited, and openly displayed. It is the honeymoon love of the husband and wife. When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted, and life becomes routine, then the marriage is in danger.
The Church no longer served Christ out of love and devotion; their ministry had become mechanical. It was out of duty that they labored for Christ. How did this happen? The Church had been serving for around 40 years. It seems the new generation didn’t have the same love for Christ that their parents had. They had forgotten the goodness of the Lord and how much He loved them. They took their salvation for granted and their love grew cold. The Church was still orthodox in its faith, but their hearts didn’t belong to Christ.
When your home life and your church life become a burden, there is something wrong with your relationship with Christ. If we complain and grumble about our service or others lack of it we have fallen out of love with Jesus Christ. But what can we do when our needs aren’t being met? What can thirsty and hungry people do to be satisfied? Can the pastor or someone feed you and give you drink? Let me tell you this as graciously as I can, I can’t meet your needs, no man can. Not even the greatest preachers can!
Only Jesus Christ can satisfy your inner most needs. John 7:37-39: On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. Today, Jesus offers us the same living water and the bread of life.
How can you get the Living Water, the Holy Spirit? Only from Jesus Christ. The command to come to Him and drink is in the present continuous tense. We can’t drink once and never need to return. We must be continually drinking the living water from Christ. You ask, how do I do this? Cherish Jesus Christ above all else. Concentrate on your relationship with Him; abide or live with Him. Talk to Him and share your life. Fall in love with Him again. The woman of Samaria was thirsty when Jesus offered her Living Water. She gladly took it and was so satisfied she went out and told everyone about Christ. The rivers of water flowed from her innermost being. That’s ministry in the Spirit!
Marriage & Our Heavenly Bridegrrom
In a good marriage we live with our spouse and talk together often. We listen to them. We spend time together and share our plans, our dreams, our very lives. We say sorry when we hurt them. They are the most important person in the world. We don’t let anything else come between us. Our relationship with our heavenly Bridegroom is just the same. If we don’t love the Lord it’s because we don’t cherish Him anymore. We haven’t taken the time to really know Him and how lovely He is. For our Beloved is fairer than ten thousand. Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. What are these desires? The Lord Himself!
Hudson Taylor’s Secret
The Lord Jesus received is holiness begun, the Lord Jesus cherished is holiness advancing, the Lord Jesus counted as never absent would be holiness complete. …Here I feel is the secret: not asking how I am to get sap out of the vine into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vive – the root, the stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, all indeed. Yes and far more too! He is the soil and the sunshine, air and rain, more than we can ask, think or desire. Let us not then want to get anything out of Him, but rejoice in being ourselves in Him – one with Him, and consequently, with all His fullness. Not seeking for faith to bring holiness, nut rejoicing in the fact of perfect holiness in Christ, let us realise that inseperably one with Him – this holiness is ours, and accepting the fact, find it so indeed.
Jude says its our personal responsibility to remain in love with Jesus Christ. Jude 20-21: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Personal Bible study, prayer, loving God, looking for His return; these are our own responsibilities, not our brothers, not the pastors.
There is no substitute for a loving, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only He can meet your needs. But only you can develop that intimate relationship with Him. No one else can maintain your relationship with Christ. Good Bible teaching is important, Christian fellowship is important, Christian service is important, prayer is important. But none of these can replace Jesus Christ. There is no substitute for Christ, He is our life! John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. We are personally responsible to love and know Christ. You say I’m to busy to spend time with Christ. Do you watch TV? What gets most time?
4. The Counsel.
Revelation 2:5: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Firstly, Christ commanded the Ephesians to keep remembering their former love for Christ. The word remember, μνημονεύω, means to be mindful of, keep in mind, think of. Christ commanded them to think back to the time when they first received Him into their lives. They were excited about the Lord then and loved Him so much. It was no sacrifice to serve Him. The Ephesian Church must restore the fellowship broken by their sin and ingratitude. Paul wrote this about the Church in its early days. Ephesians 1:15-16: Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:
Beloved, do you remember when you were saved? Do you remember what a thrill it was and what the Lord Jesus meant to you? Have we become cold and indifferent to Him? If we’ve left our first love we should remember how wretched we were when God saved us.
We Too Love Him
An aged countryman visited a great art gallery and looked at different paintings. He was especially impressed with a picture of Christ dying on the cross. As he gazed fixedly upon it, a deeper love for the Savior flooded his heart. With great feeling, he exclaimed, Bless Him! I love Him! I love Him! Those standing nearby heard him. They saw tears glistening on his careworn face as he stood completely oblivious of the presence of others. Four of them came and said, We, too, love Him, brother. Though strangers to each other, they were drawn together in love and adoration for the Savior. Love for God is what the Lord wants most from us. Then service will flow.
They must repent. The word repent, μετανοέω, means to change our minds, to turn around, to be converted. In calling the Ephesian believers to repentance Christ was asking them to change their attitude as well as their affections. They were to continue their service not simply because it was right but because they loved Christ. Believe me, we need to repent. We need to break the shell of self-sufficiency, we must get rid of all hypocrisy. Christ sees through it all. He saw the hearts of the Ephesians. He can see ours too. If we’ve wandered from Christ, we must repent! If our love is cold, let’s repent. Today, the church needs to repent; but it’s a message that we don’t want to hear.
Thirdly, we must repeat the first works. This suggests restoring the original fellowship that was broken by our sin and neglect. For the believer, this means prayer, Bible reading and meditation, obedient service, and worship. It means we treasure our relationship with Jesus Christ more than anything else. He becomes more dear to us than anyone. Jesus Christ is our life. Jesus tied love together with service when He restored Simon Peter. John 21:15-17: Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? He said to Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said to him, Feed My lambs. Jesus repeated His question and command 3 times. Love for Christ is essential to service. Paul had taught them this. Love is mentioned 20 times in Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:11-16: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Power Of Love
A man who had been the superintendent of a city rescue mission for forty years was asked why he had spent his life working with dirty, unkempt, profane, drunken derelicts. He said, All I’m doing is giving back to others a little of the love God has shown to me. As a young man, he himself had been a drunkard who went into a mission for a bowl of chili. There he heard the preacher say that Christ could save sinners, and he stumbled forward to accept the Lord Jesus as his Savior. Though his brain was addled by drink, he felt a weight lifted from his shoulders, and that day he became a changed person. A little later, seeking God’s will for his life, he felt the Lord calling him to go back to the gutter and reach the people still wallowing there. The power of redeeming love enabled him to carry on his ministry for forty years.
2:5b, 7a: or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Christ also warned the Ephesians what would happen if they didn’t repent. He would come to them quickly and remove their lampstand from its place. In spite of the privileges it had enjoyed, the church of Ephesus was in danger of losing its light! Remember the Ephesian Church was a big Church. Yet that made no difference, they must repent. The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be. The glorious city of Ephesus is today but a heap of stones and no light is shining there. They didn’t heed Christ’s warning and the church closed. Christ speaks to the Church today. He says, repent and love me. Are we listening?
Revelation 2:7b: To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
Revelation 2:7: makes it clear that individual believers within the church may be true to the Lord, no matter what others may do. If believers place Jesus Christ in the centre of their lives He will place them in the centre of paradise. In these seven messages the overcomers are true believers whose faith has given them victory. The word overcome, νικάω, means to conquer, prevail, get the victory. 1 John 5:4-5: For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Overcomers persevere in their faith, they don’t quit. They serve God out of love and gratitude for all that Christ has done. They cherish Christ who rules in their heart. Paul shares his motive in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
Does it really matter what motive we have when we serve God? Yes it does. Love is the only motive that God will accept. When our service is evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ, the Lord will judge our motives as well as our works. When we love Him it doesn’t seem a sacrifice. When we love Him we don’t murmur or complain. Only love motivates us to give our very best. How’s our love life with Christ? Do you cherish Him? Do you delight to spend time with Him? Or Have you lost your first love? He knows our hearts. Do we need to repent and start a fresh in our relationship with Christ? Do we need to repent? Do we need to rededicate our life to Him out of love and devotion?
The Lord Jesus received is holiness begun, the Lord Jesus cherished is holiness advancing, the Lord Jesus counted as never absent would be holiness complete.